LFK's nerdiest progressives packed Woodruff Auditorium (and at least part of the "overflow room") last night for "An Evening With Sarah Vowell," and she more than delivered the nerdery, history, and humor we came for.
After a long reading that used a Hawaiian "blue plate special" to make an argument that our 50th state is simultaneously a perfect embodiment of American diversity and American imperialism, she opted to "pander" (as she put it) to her Kansas audience by reading two pieces that touched on local history, namely John Brown and Bob Dole. The John Brown-connected piece was a remarkable bit of music/history writing which traced the origins and evolution of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (the piece was from a Greil Marcus-edited collection called The Rose and The Briar: Death, Love, and Liberty in the American Ballad, a book we obviously must purchase, and soon). Before the reading, Vowell related an incident on Mass. Street earlier in the day when she was startled by a "What Would John Brown Do?" t-shirt in a shop window. "I'll tell you what John Brown would do?" she added later. "Kill people." Oh, what we wouldn't have given to take Vowell out for a Free State John Brown's Ale later and let her rant fully against LFK's misguided hero-worship.
After first resisting the urge to be drawn into an Obama vs. Romney discussion ("I think one of them is probably slightly better than the other"), Vowell finally couldn't help but rail lengthily against the sheer stupidity of Romney's attack on one of the three things Americans can agree are good: "Big Bird, ice cream, and Meryl Streep."
In a moment that surely delighted LFK's music nerds, Vowell claimed that her two main influences/mentors were from her days as a rock critic: Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus.
When the Hall Center's Victor Bailey, looming at the back of the stage during the Q&A, interjected a question of his own, Vowell confused him and half of the audience completely with a reference to the voice of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Meanwhile, across town in the ballroom of Pachamama's, the Nerd Nite nerds assembled for the first time in the much-larger ballroom and we understand they STILL had to turn people away?? But isn't there plenty of room to just set up a bunch of chairs in rows in there? We've definitely been to events with large crowds in there before (namely, a bizarre, rambling, heavily-attended lecture from noted druggie/Mayan expert Daniel Pinchbeck).
Anyway, let's try to get the gist of the evening's presentations via tweets from those who got in.
"Starting out with a murder ballad! #quantrill #nnlfk
"East Lawrence known as the place where you rent a crappy house. Its always been the place where you rent a crappy house"
@nerdniteKS has proved it, big-time: Lawrence is bloody, bizarre, and beautiful. #nnlfk"
Sadly, that's about all we were able to glean via Twitter. But thankfully our friend Nick at KJHK should have some video from the evening in the near-future for us all to peruse.
Normally scenesters avoid the evening matinees at the Replay (too early, the bands aren't hip, etc etc), but tonight's bad-ass triple bill should bring out a fair amount of scenesters who aren't normally inclined to venture out prior to midnight:
Late Night Callers
Monzie Leo and the Big Sky
We've seen this show billed (somewhere) as a "masquerade," which gets us especially excited, since we always suspect a masquerade has a tendency to blossom into an Eyes Wide Shut-style orgy.
And apparently the Late Night Callers are pulling double-duty tomorrow, appearing at the Bottleneck later in the evening with LFK's doo-wop dandies Dean Monkey and the Dropouts and the great White Ghost Shivers.
Reread our Dean Monkey interview here and our especially boner-centric White Ghost Shivers interview here .
[note: looking into the history of the Late Night Callers, we just realized that they once played "A David Lynch Theme Night" called "A Night at the Red Room," which makes them even fucking cooler than we thought...and we already thought they were pretty fucking cool].
Here they are via the Pitch, looking like they stepped out of a Raymond Chandler novel:
WGS Bottleneck flyer: